Everywhere He Wants to Be by Niall O'Dowd He travels the globe putting sponsorship deals toget


O'Hara Lynch did Proserv for seven years before jumping to entertainment vehicles because he had a non-compete clause when he left.

He ran the events business for Radio City Music Hall, jumping into a business that, like sport, was starting to attract massive new coverage from paparazzi to mainstream media.

Radio City productions were not limited to the famed theater itself. They staged Super Bowl halftime shows, World Cup opening ceremonies, and of course the iconic Christmas shows. "It was a way for me to learn different skills and to be on the inside of entertainment just as it exploded as a medium."

But his wife Susan, a Northern California girl, had never fully settled in the Big Apple. When their first child became due they began thinking of moving to sunnier climes.

A meeting with a senior Visa executive sealed the deal. "Over breakfast she asked me if I would be interested in running the sports and entertainment stuff that Visa was doing. They had the Olympic team sponsorship, they were actually doing an Elton John tour, and it just sounded great."

He had worked with Visa before when he brokered a deal which made them sponsor of the U.S. Open tennis championship. "They wanted someone who both worked in the entertainment business from a marketing perspective and knew the sports world.

"When I mentioned it to my wife over dinner, she went to the closet and began packing her bag. Off we went to San Francisco. I managed the Olympics for Visa. We had just become sponsor of the NFL and a sponsor of racing's Triple Crown."

"My job was essentially to manage those athletes, Olympic, NFL and the Visa Triple Crown, and essentially build an integrated marketing campaign around each event - 'everywhere you want to be - unsurpassed acceptance.'"

Because all credit card companies essentially work the same, the brand means everything, which is where O'Hara Lynch comes in.

"When you think about a property like the Olympics, Visa gets you in there. It's our main competitive difference with American Express," he says. "But the Olympics doesn't take MasterCard either. The campaign was essentially designed to differentiate between the brands."

The marketing has clearly worked. Visa has a 52 percent market share in the U.S. and a 64 percent share worldwide, up by over 33 percent.

Visa is not only about sports, of course. Visa is the largest Broadway sponsor, the only card to get you into the Tony awards; they are also a proud sponsor of Disney productions.

Among the places O'Hara Lynch wants to be is in Ireland with his wife and kids at some point in the future to trace the roots of his great-grandparents who left.

He traces those roots to Cork but says he "got stuck in Dublin" every time he has gone over. "I'm dying to take the family over there. I've been waiting for my children to get older so they can appreciate it a little more. I want them to know what their history is all about."

No doubt when they do, O'Hara Lynch will see a land that has been transformed in the past few decades as prosperity has come home. Not unlike his own life from its modest beginnings to worldwide traveler and dealmaker. He has a visa for the world now.